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Alison Lancaster joins us at our recent retail breakfast

19 September 2017

I recently hosted a breakfast for retail executives at our Head Office in London. Alison Lancaster, a leading authority on Digital Transformation and the go-to interim manager in this space joined us as our guest speaker.

For over 10 years Alison has specialised in Multi-Channel Marketing and Digital Transformation roles for retailers including Morrisons Plc, House of Fraser, Bravissimo and Bon Marche. She kicked off the discussion by asking the retail executives present who their core customers are and why they should choose their brand. Alison passionately believes that visionary leaders close to their customers will be the ones that deliver product, experience and service seamlessly through any channel. The passion and vision from the CEO, founder or leader of a business can trump strategy and lead to success in digital transformation. 

The retail sector is facing huge challenges and cost is playing a part in the resistance to change. Many retailers are stock heavy and cash poor and are bogged down in the daily fight for consumer spend. However, the pace of change in technology is getting faster with mobile constantly developing and artificial intelligence just around the corner. Alison was keen to point out that there is no road-map or one size fits all solution for digital transformation. Retail businesses must accept we are in an age of constant change. They can not just throw out their old legacy systems and must realise that technology is an enabler, not the reason why people shop so their challenge in climbing the mountain is to aim for the base camps.

In no particular order, the base camps are data, customer and leadership.

Data was a highly discussed topic as it gives retailers access to human behaviour. Amazon currently has more searches for products than Google; it owns its data and arguably knows their customers better than anyone. Many retailers operating today are missing insight to who their customers are. There is a massive opportunity for retailers with the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)in May 2018 ( to win market share from competitors by getting to know their customers better and as well as offering desirable products, offering best in class service and experience to enhance consumer engagement.

Digitising the customer experience is a massive transformation for most retailers; in some cases a complete metamorphosis. Knowing your customer is the key to success; technology will be the enabler to transformation. Put the customer first, give them what they want and provide first class service (or someone else will). The customer is drowning in choice, a more curated and specialist product range will make a retailer leaner and faster. Established brands can learn a lot from smaller and more agile businesses who are going that extra yard to give outstanding experience.  

Strong leadership with vision and purpose is essential for success in the digital age. The plan can not be to invest purely in digital marketing, social media, PPC and SEO. Businesses need to re-organise themselves around the customer. The silos need to come down and functions need cross over in order for the business to have a more agile and disruptive mind-set. The model needs to be flexible and adaptable so it can move with the customer. The leaders brave enough to adapt this philosophy, to think differently about shopping and experience will be the ones to drive footfall to stores and digital channels. Purpose, passion and great people will ensure that product, great service and experience will win through. 

Feedback from the retail breakfast

‘Thanks for the invitation to breakfast earlier - another very interesting and thought provoking presentation and discussion.’

‘I was really interested in the conversation and also wanted to discuss so much - it was all so relevant!’

‘Alison's speech was thought provoking and I thoroughly agree with the idea that Interims can bring wealth of experience, and at Exec level can drive some uncomfortable and important conversations that need to be had.’

For more information, please contact Jonathan Flynn.

Categories: Retail


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